Category Archives: Intermediate-Middle School Chapter Books

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Lemons by Melissa Savage

This is a fun and heart-warming book about friendship, family, and healing after loss. Set in the 1970’s, 10-year-old Lemonade Liberty Witt, Lem for short, was told by her mother to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. But after her mother’s death from cancer, Lem not only has to grieve her mother’s loss, but the loss of her friends and home life in San Francisco when she moves to northern California to live with a grandfather she has never met. The book touches on serious subjects (death, grieving, bullying, loneliness, post-traumatic stress disorder) without getting too heavy – it is fun and has a lot of humor in it as well. Her new hometown is the Bigfoot capital of the world and her new neighbor, Tobin, is a Bigfoot detective who spends a lot of time with Lem’s grandfather while his mother is at work. Tobin’s father served in the Vietnam War and is currently missing. Lem and Tobin form a friendship and work together at Tobin’s Bigfoot Detective Agency (in the garage). But Lem wants to make friends with other kids in the neighborhood, while Tobin has been bullied and so wants nothing to do with them. As the summer goes on, Lem investigates Bigfoot sightings, meets new people, gets to know her grandfather, and in the process learns about friendship, family, and how to live with the loss of her mother. The book was beautiful – funny, touching, and filled with life lessons about love and friendship.

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Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart

A moving story about the unbreakable bond between a dog and his boy, a bond so strong it even survives death. Brodie is dead. When he finds himself in dog purgatory, filled with others dogs running and playing, endless green grass, and beautiful lakes, he knows he can’t stay. His boy back on Earth is in danger and he needs to return to him. So Brodie goes back to Earth as a spirit, breaking the rules and endangering his eternal soul in the process. Another exuberant dog named Tuck accompanies him. Tuck has been in purgatory a long time, but refuses to move on to Heaven, punishing himself for what he perceives as a failure in his life on Earth. Once the two dogs get to Earth, they meet the spirit of a stray cat called Patsy, who had a tough life and a tough death, but helps guide them on their journey. Brodie’s boy, Aiden, was abused by his father and slowly the horrible truth is revealed through Brodie’s memories: Brodie was murdered by Aiden’s father in front of the boy. Brodie can’t find peace or move on to Heaven until he knows that Aiden is safe from his father, whom Brodie calls the monster. Complicating this mission are a pack of soulless hellhounds, intent on stealing Brodie’s soul. The book is filled with tenseness and action, as well as love and examples of heroic, selfless actions and sacrifice. In addition to Brodie’s devotion to Aiden, Tuck and Patsy also have moments of awakening. A beautiful story; however, there is darkness in it due to the violence committed by the father, including the terrible death of Brodie, but a redemptive ending. A tribute to the loyalty and love our dogs show us for the entirety of their lives and the special relationship children have with their pets.

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Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Fifth grader Charlie has to stay with her aunt and uncle whom she has never met while her father in is jail and her mother is mentally ill and unable to care for her or her sister, who stays at home with the family of a friend. Charlie is unhappy to be living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with “squirrel-eating hillbillies” and she has a temper which keeps her from making friends. However, she meets a sweet boy named Harold who is intent on being her friend no matter how badly she treats him. She also adopts a stray dog she names Wishbone. Charlie’s aunt and uncle are generous, caring people who provide Charlie with the love and support she needs. Every day, Charlie makes the same wish. We don’t learn this wish until the end of the book, but the reader can guess that it has something to do with making her broken family whole. However, with the love of her aunt and uncle, Wishbone, and Harold and his family, Charlie slowly lets go of her anger and learns that her wish has already come true and she has a home and family right there. A warm-hearted story of family and love.

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Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Ben, a 14-year-old boy, his border collie Atticus, and his impulsive father go on a road trip to adopt a border collie puppy. Along the way, they pick up an entertaining group of passengers, including Ben’s older friend Theo, who is a tough guy trying to straighten out his life, Gus, a mechanic who lends them his bus when their vehicle breaks down early into the trip, and a waitress named Mia, who walks out of the restaurant where she was working to join the group after putting up with harassment. Ben is worried about his parents and his dad uses the trip to explain that he has quit his job to start his own business flipping houses and that because money is tight, Ben may not be able to attend hockey camp. The book is narrated by Ben, with Atticus’ commentary added at the end of each chapter. Atticus’ perspective provides added humor and wisdom to this quirky and fun romp with happy endings all around. The book also has a heart, promoting the virtue of dogs and dog rescue and a touching relationship between father and son. This title is followed by a sequel, Field Trip, in which a third dog is added to the family. A great choice especially for boys who may not be big readers and dog lovers.

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The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell

This is realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy that delivers a powerful message about being yourself, standing up to bullies, and not conforming to fit in with the popular crowd. Abby is in sixth grade and is neither popular nor unpopular. She sits at lunchtime with what she calls the “medium” girls – not the most popular, but not the least – but she is growing tired of their constant chatter about their looks and their comments about her weight. Abby is a bit chubby, but she is fine with herself. After one comment too many, Abby walks away from the medium girls at lunchtime, thereby earning their wrath and making her the target of their bullying. She meets a boy who invites her to sit with him at lunch and she makes friends with him and another boy who sits with them. Abby is much happier with these friends, who she can talk to and be herself. Abby’s parents are getting on her about her weight also, and she is getting frustrated and angry at people not accepting her for who she is, even her own family. One day, she spies a fox in the field across from her house. The fox bites her and the bite seems to lead Abby to a new beginning. She walks to a part of her neighborhood she has never been before, where she meets 8-year-old Anders, who lives with his grandmother, father, and dog across a creek. Ander’s father, Matt, is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq and so things are difficult for the home-schooled boy and his grandmother. Abby begins spending more time with Anders and his family, helping Matt with a writing project that soothes his PTSD. Helping with this project allows her to help someone else. It also takes her to the computer lab at school, where she makes another new friend, giving her yet more strength to stand up to her tormentors. Abby doesn’t fight back, but just moves on, finding friends who like and accept her, and eventually the mean girls ostracize themselves more and more from their group until they are the outsiders. The fox’s story is also followed in alternating chapters told from her point-of-view, which lends the fantasy to the book. We discover that the fox has a connection to Matt as she learns to find her way in difficult circumstances just as Abby and Matt do.

This is a book of depth, which realistically portrays the cruelty of pre-teen girls towards one another and how parents don’t always understand their pre-teens, even when they have good intentions. Abby is a wonderful character, brave and proud of who she is, finding her true self,  while maintaining her self-respect and making a happy existence for herself.

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Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

This is a realistic fiction chapter book about 11-year-old Elise. It explores the difficulty of the pre-teen years, when children can struggle with their identity as they begin the change from a child to a young adult, and the hardships of middle school, where kids can be so cruel to one another. Elise’s best friend has always been Franklin, but now that they are in middle school, Elise questions her friendship with him when he seems too much like a little kid, which causes teasing at school. She is not a good friend to Franklin and damages their friendship. While struggling with this situation, she discovers that her father, who died of cancer when she was three years old after losing her mother at birth, has left her a series of messages in the rooms of the barn at her aunt and uncle’s house, who have raised her. As she explores each room of the barn, she learns more about herself and who and where she came from. This experience helps her to grow and mature, so she can mend her relationship with Franklin, stand up to bullying, and also make a new friend. Elise has a wonderful, loving family who support her – her aunt and uncle, as well as her aunt’s sister and her baby who have recently come to live with them. These secondary characters really added to the story for me as they helped Elise find her way and realize the importance of family and friends and being proud of who you are instead of changing yourself to try to fit in with the so-called cool kids.

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Gildaen: The Heroic Adventures of a Most Unusual Rabbit by Emilie Buchwald and illustrated by Barbara Flynn

This is an imaginative, enchanting fantasy chapter book published in the 1970s that will appeal to fans of The Hobbit. Gildaen is a rabbit who longs for adventure, unlike other rabbits who are content to stay home. When Gildaen comes upon an owl, he fears he will become the owl’s meal, but the creature turns out to be under an enchantment – he can’t remember who he is, but he has the power to transform into any creature. He transforms into a prince called Evon and Gildaen accompanies him on his quest to discover who he really is. Along the way, they meet Hickory, a servant of the young king, who has been ostracized from the castle. The king is under the sway of an evil sorcerer called Grimald, who is bent on taking over the kingdom. Evon and Gildaen team up with Hickory to save the kingdom and expose Grimald. In the process, Evon gifts Gildaen with the ability to communicate with other animals and transforms him into other creatures, including a cat, hawk, and snake. The group’s adventures are exciting and the ending is satisfying, with happy endings for all the characters and no overt violence, making it appropriate for reading aloud to younger children or independent reading for older children.